Caustic and kind, deprecating and self-deprecating Joan Rivers was like a lot of American Jewish women her age. I know people like her, without necessarily the same public vulgarity which was her special genius. They put up with men and turned on its head God knows how much grief and bullshit to create their own power and the power of their personae. Smartly put together and physically energetic, what’s powerful and funny about women like her is the facility with wit and words, the straightforward, honest and withering, no-bullshit eye as the world falls under the discerning gaze of an older person’s critical judgment, and the ability to pass that judgement over everyone and anything with an economy of words. Style, taste, and money are part of that power. Accompanied by bagpipes, the last performance of Joan Rivers was at a synagogue, the big Temple Emannuel on 5th Avenue.
This bit from the New York Times caught my eye. Directing her funeral, she wrote:
“I want my funeral to be a big showbiz affair with lights, cameras, action,” the paragraph-long directive said. “I want paparazzi and I want publicists making a scene! I want it to be Hollywood all the way. I don’t want some rabbi rambling on.” So after reading from Ecclesiastes, Rabbi Joshua M. Davidson told the invitation-only audience of mourners that he was not about to be that rabbi. More than an hour of tributes and reminiscences followed from friends who occasionally found themselves turning to Rabbi Davidson, the synagogue’s senior rabbi, as if to say not “Can we talk?” — one of the phrases Ms. Rivers made famous — but “Can we talk like that here?” after uttering language not usually heard in a place of worship.